Posted by: Lister | October 5, 2007

Torture and Science

Interrogation Research Is Lacking:

There is almost no scientific evidence to back up the U.S. intelligence community’s use of controversial interrogation techniques in the fight against terrorism, and experts believe some painful and coercive approaches could hinder the ability to get good information, according to a new report from an intelligence advisory group.

The 374-page report from the Intelligence Science Board examines several aspects of broad interrogation methods and approaches, and it finds that no significant scientific research has been conducted in more than four decades about the effectiveness of many techniques the U.S. military and intelligence groups use regularly.

[…] [PDF of study]

[…] In it, experts find that popular culture and ad hoc experimentation have fueled the use of aggressive and sometimes physical interrogation techniques to get those captured on the battlefields to talk, even if there is no evidence to support the tactics’ effectiveness.

[…] “The scientific community has never established that coercive interrogation methods are an effective means of obtaining reliable intelligence information,” wrote Col. Steven M. Kleinman, who has served as the Pentagon’s senior intelligence officer for special survival training.

Kleinman wrote that intelligence gathered with coercion is sometimes inaccurate or false, noting that isolation, a tactic U.S. officials have used regularly, causes “profound emotional, psychological, and physical discomfort” and can “significantly and negatively impact the ability of the source to recall information accurately.”

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Responses

  1. The torture myth:

    Just for a moment, let’s pretend that there is no moral, legal or constitutional problem with torture. Let’s also imagine a clear-cut case: a terrorist who knows where bombs are about to explode in Iraq. To stop him, it seems that a wide range of Americans would be prepared to endorse “cruel and unusual” methods.

    […] these arguments rest on an assumption: that torture — defined as physical pressure during interrogation — can be used to extract useful information.

    […] An up-to-date illustration of the colonel’s point appeared in recently released FBI documents from the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. These show, among other things, that some military intelligence officers wanted to use harsher interrogation methods than the FBI did. As a result, complained one inspector, “every time the FBI established a rapport with a detainee, the military would step in and the detainee would stop being cooperative.” So much for the utility of torture.


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